Back in 2010 when we decided to add Charlie Bear to our household we had a resident 10-year-old Golden Lab named Rex. He shared his domain with cats but never another dog. We weren’t worried about Rex, he’d been socialized around other dogs at doggie day care, overnighters, and the dog park and dog beach.

What we didn’t know was how this new little rascal would fit in, so we did some homework. Dr. Jon’s PetPlace Newsletter had wonderful advice.

“If you have a dog and you’re thinking about getting another dog…choose wisely. The better the “match”, the easier the transition will be. A natural hierarchy will develop over the first few weeks and in most cases the older incumbent dog will and should occupy the “alpha position.”

Here are some tips for choosing another dog:

1. Sex – It’s best to choose a dog of the opposite sex. This will decrease the chance of aggression.

2. Breed – Research dog breeds and choose the one that has the best chance of getting along with your resident dog.

3. Personality – Make sure the dogs’ personalities match. If the incumbent dog has lots of energy for playing, it would be appropriate to get a new puppy or young adult dog. If the incumbent is unlikely to tolerate the antics and energy of an adolescent dog, consider getting an older dog.

Once you select your new dog, the “dog-to-dog” introduction is important. Here are some tips on how to introduce two dogs:

1. Keep it friendly – It may be possible to introduce the dogs in a relaxed manner by just letting them sniff and play, as long as both are known to be friendly with other dogs.

2. Take it slow – If you are not sure how the dogs will react, start off cautiously by taking them for a walk together on neutral territory (e.g. a park, not your yard). When they show friendly behavior toward each other or begin to ignore each other, move the exercise to your back yard. Finally, allow the dogs to be together in your home.

3. Watch for signs – Be aware that wagging tails do not necessarily mean that dogs are happy to see each other. A straight up tail that wags stiffly is a dominant sign that may signal aggression. If one dog’s tail is tucked down between its legs, that dog is afraid and nervous. This calls for a gradual, well-supervised approach to avoid making the dog even more fearful. If a dog’s tail is horizontal and wagging in a relaxed fashion, it’s all systems go!

4. The dominant dog will emerge – When the dogs eventually meet off-leash, one of them is going to need to establish dominance. This is a normal and necessary step in a dog-dog relationship, but sometimes the process can look and sound pretty scary. The dogs will maneuver around each other and may even scuffle to the point at which one dog ends up on his back, with the other dog standing over him. There may be some nipping and grabbing of the neck or throat. Try not to worry too much when this happens. It is normal for dogs to engage in such roughness. Once the dominant dog establishes himself, he probably won’t feel the need to repeat these maneuvers.

5. Support the dominant dog – Once the dogs are together, make sure that you support one dog as dominant (this will probably be the resident dog). Show him that he is “number one” by feeding and petting him first and giving him the favorite sleeping area. Don’t expect the dogs to share. Sharing isn’t normal for most dogs. Feed them separately (across the room) and don’t give really delicious chew toys (rawhides, pig ears) until the hierarchy is secure.

Introducing a new dog into the home can be a lot simpler when it’s done correctly. Don’t get upset when the resident dog tells the newcomer to “bug off.” This is how the new dog learns the house rules. Eventually they should become fast friends.”

* * *

Because we read this, our reaction to Charlie Bear and his aggression toward Rex was not unexpected. We wholeheartedly thank Dr. Jon for this great advice. Here are a couple of comments from folks on Facebook: Mark Carlson (author of Confessions of a Guide Dog: The Blonde Leading the Blind): “I’ve read and been told by other service dog owners that in the case of a very dominant ‘alpha’ male like my guide dog, Musket, to get a female of the same breed so he won’t feel threatened by her.” And from Julie: “I’ve been thinking about getting a new little dog. Good stuff to know.”

Have you added a new dog to your household? How did it go? Share your experiences by commenting here and also send your photos of your loved and cherished pets by email and we’ll post on a future blog. Send to:

And if you are thinking of adding a new dog, did this post help you?

Hugs and love from B.J.
Woofs & wiggles from Charlie Bear

Rescue Dog? How to Choose and Add to Household…
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10 thoughts on “Rescue Dog? How to Choose and Add to Household…

  • April 20, 2012 at 5:38 am

    Have you ever considered publishing an e-book or guest authoring on other websites? I have a blog centered on the same ideas you discuss and would love to have you share some stories/information. I know my viewers would appreciate your work. If you are even remotely interested, feel free to send me an email.

    • May 1, 2012 at 6:55 pm

      Dog Name Tag,
      Thanks for the offer to guest post on your blog. I appreciate it very much. Let me look into that and get back to you.
      Best regards,
      B.J. & Charlie Bear

  • April 15, 2012 at 6:42 am

    These are some wonderful tips. I’ve been thinking about adding another rescue to my home. Jesse is the alpha here and territorial so I’ve not made up my mind yet but these tips give me a basis to go on if I do decide to make this addition. Thank you. Martha

    • April 15, 2012 at 7:45 am


      Charlie Bear bets that when you do decide to find a friend for Jesse you’ll discover just the right one. There are so many out there waiting to be adopted. Bless you for opening your heart.

      Hugs from me, B.J.
      Wiggles & woofs from Charlie Bear

  • April 14, 2012 at 9:53 pm

    i had to giggle, Charlie Bear. Our situation with Sadie and Shadow was so very different. Sadie had learned to know Harley (my Akita) but never showed her face until after Akita had gone over the Rainbow Bridge. Then she slunk around. And Shadow really slunk around acting like the coyote she looks like. But it didn’t take long for the girls to become best friends. Then Mr. Wiggles came around, but since we were not sure if either Sadie or Shadow had had surgery we sent him on to our neighbors across the river. We actually tried giving Shadow to someone else, but Shadow had already decided where her forever home was, so there you go. That’s our story and we’re sticking to it!

    • April 15, 2012 at 7:42 am


      Happy to hear Sadie and Shadow became good friends, and Mr. Wiggles got a good home (love his name!). Blessings on your for adopting and caring for the animals around us.

      Hugs from B.J.
      Wiggles and Woofs from Charlie Bear

  • April 14, 2012 at 6:12 pm

    Great advice. Do you have any advice for adding a dog to a household that is already owned and controlled by a cat?

    • April 14, 2012 at 6:39 pm


      Ahhhh…we had two wonderful cats for more than 15 years. One got along really well with our big dog, Rex, the other did not and stayed out of his way entirely. We put Rex to bed at night in a separate room and closed the door so the cats could come and go as they wished. It was a system that worked for us. Maybe it could work for you?

      Best wishes,

  • April 14, 2012 at 2:02 pm

    These are great tips, Charlie Bear! Thank you.

    Rex seems pretty laid back in the picture–such a gentleman.

    • April 14, 2012 at 6:37 pm

      Hi Julie,

      Rex IS laid back in the picture, a true mellow man at the age of ten. It was the new little critter that upset the roost!

      Glad you enjoyed the tips.

      Hugs from B.J.
      Woofs & Wiggles from Charlie Bear


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